October 10, 2011

May I Buy New Clothes?

Last spring, I bought a dress. Every time I wore it to church, someone told me how cute it was.

I found it at the thrift store. It cost $1.

And, with each compliment I received, I would say, “Thanks. It was $1.” I apparently said this frequently. Last time I was complimented, a nearby woman immediately chimed in: “Tell her how much you paid for it, Megan.”

Why do I do that?

Why do I need to define every purchase as a bargain? Is it sinful pride in my frugality? Probably. But I also think it’s a defensive maneuver in front of the people who pay our bills.

The hardworking people in our church have been very generous to us. But ministry money does feel strange: your friends have a meeting to discuss your salary and then chip in to pay it. (Or, alternatively: you have to travel around the country asking your friends to please pay you.)

For those women (like me!) who are also pros at over-analyzing other people’s looks and comments, a gracious reality check is in order.

They are just not that into you. (And are probably even happy for you.)
If I think about it rationally, nobody even notices my clothes most of the time, and, when they do, their compliments show they are happy for me to have a cute dress.

I Corinthians 13 says love “believes all things” and “hopes all things.” In love, we assume the best.

Feeling financial scrutiny can be a God-given nudge toward generosity.
I have a friend whose ministry depends on the support she and her husband raise. She once told me, “We can’t go out on a date because our supporters wouldn’t like it.” I thought: Wait a minute! We’re your supporters, and we want you to go on a date! This was an opportunity to offer them a restaurant gift card and ourselves as babysitters.

When I feel like I’m under the financial microscope, the Lord is reminding me to cultivate a generous spirit toward others who may be in the same position.

Living before the face of God alone brings freedom.
A hundred people have a hundred different priorities for the right use of money. Thankfully, we serve a God who has one priority: His own glory. (More about the responsibility of this another time.) Instead of spending or saving motivated by man’s conflicting opinions, we can freely focus on living before God alone.

We know another family in ministry who employ a housekeeper. This allows the wife to homeschool her children and assist her husband’s ministry at the university. They have decided that their family can best serve the Lord if the wife doesn’t have to cook and clean. They are making financial choices to please God rather than man—which brings freedom.

So. . .

Last night, at prayer meeting, a church member said to me: “I saw you walking yesterday. You’ve got a nice new jogging stroller there!” The stroller in question is actually one my mom recycled for me six years ago when she found it abandoned with flat tires.

I didn’t explain.


  1. I do this with big ticket items. Part of it is that, at times, I am secretly jealous of another woman's purchases and think, "How can she afford that?" So, she might judge me in the same way. I need to apply Matthew 7:1 to my life.

  2. What a timely article! Seriously I struggle with something like this too. I worry that those who would begrudge it to us - that we have something nice and new - will gossip or stop giving in support of us or whatever. When we need a new vehicle or a big ticket item it is especially hard.

    Guess what? We need a bigger house to ease our ability to entertain large crowds which we have in our church. We can pack in one other family into our small dining room, but we're usually spilling over into the living room. We have been praying for this for a couple years and this summer some friends offered to pay the down payment for us - seriously, just for God's glory. We recently found a big house with everything we have been praying for - in fact, it is so perfect it is like God told these ppl to build their house in 1977 just to our specifications for how we would need it laid out. It is so Providential that we feel certain we are to bid on it and did so yesterday. But I am struggling. What about those who will begrudge it to us? Every church has them right? Those who think we should live in poverty to keep us humble, or those who think we are wasting their money? Or those who think we ought to not have big nice or new things for whatever reason. Or those who have gossiped about us maliciously. It floods me and I am conflicted. MAN FEARING plagues me.

    I stand rebuked.

    My friend says to ignore them and let them wallow in their ugliness while I shine for Christ and bring the glory to God. She asked me to say, "Come and see what THE LORD has done for us." When we're in the house, I will.

  3. I agree that this is an issue sometimes. I feel a little guilty EVERY time we go out to eat or pick up a meal to bring home. I wonder, "What if someone from the church sees us? Will they think we're not being wise with our money, eating out?" etc... We've just recently moved to an even smaller..way smaller..town. I feel like everyone will know our comings and goings..and buyings. I too often feel like I need to mention how little I spent on this or that. You're right though, that it's the Lord who we're responsible for and we need to find freedom in that. Thanks for the encouragement. And thanks for touching on this topic...one that you don't hear talked about very often in ministry circles.

  4. I should have said it's the Lord who we're responsible to

  5. A mini-van purchase is fast-approaching for our family (necessary to accommodate car seats for 3.) Thanks for the wise things you sisters have said; the first Sunday we arrive on "new" (used!) wheels, I'll be glad to remember I'm not the only one who has had these awkward feelings

  6. I grew up in a small town (600 people) so I know that people do keep track of the comings and goings. But, they do that for everybody, not just people in ministry. The experience has taught me to care less about what others think and more about what God requires. I have a t-shirt that says "The best part about living in a small town is when I don't know what I am doing, someone else does."

  7. I have noticed that there is a pride in having possessions and a pride in frugality (having few possessions or paying little for them). Both are opposite ends of a pride problem, and it's a struggle to be balanced in my thinking. Where I live now, frugality is the direction our people follow. Recently, I was caught off guard when a lady in my SS class asked me how much we paid for my daughter's violin lessons, so I told her. She gasped. Generally, I keep our purchases relatively quiet or only mention a really good deal. :)

  8. Patsy, I want one of those T-shirts! I am so going to make one if I can't find one. LOL!

  9. I got my small town t-shirt from this online store. Due to the wonders of the internet, a northerner can purchase items from a place called Southern Belle. http://www.southernbellestore.com/SearchResults.asp?Search=small+town

  10. This definitely strikes a cord for me. When we were in Russia, our apartment had a dishwasher. Every time someone came over, I was extremely quick to say, "The dishwasher was here, wasn't that a blessing!" because I sure didn't want anyone to think that we had gone to the extravagance of purchasing a dishwasher, which is a huge extravagance in Russia.
    I think that having a sense of responsibility for the money given to you is appropriate, but not the sense of fear of man, rather the responsibility to use all our resources for God's honor and glory. They are His after all. God has helped me to relax a little and to be better at accepting generosity from other people and enjoying the good things that He has given us!


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